A report describing Edward Snowden as a ‘disgruntled employee’ distorts facts in an act of ‘bad faith’, Snowden responds
A new US Congress report on Edward Snowden distorts facts in an effort to reduce his actions to those of a “disgruntled employee”, Snowden has said, while an investigative journalist described the report as “aggressively dishonest”.
The study by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), carried out over a period of two years, concluded that Snowden was “a disgruntled employee who had frequent conflicts with his managers and was reprimanded just two weeks before he began illegally downloading classified documents”.
The committee called Snowden a “traitor” and recommended he “face justice” for disclosing state secrets.
The US government has struggled to manage the effects of Snowden’s disclosures, which brought to light extensive its digital surveillance programmes and have led to dramatic changes in digital communications security and international data-sharing arrangements, including the annullation of a data-sharing treaty between the US and the EU.
Civil liberties organisations have underscored the importance of Snowden’s disclosures, and have urged US president Barack Obama to pardon him, while a film by prominent director Oliver Stone released on Friday argues Snowden’s actions were intended to “save his country”.
But US officials, while adopting measures last year that regulate the National Security Agency’s (NSA) collection of US citizens’ telephone call metadata, have argued that the surveillance programmes are justified in that they protect US interests.
The HPSCI’s report, while estimating the damage caused by the disclosures, largely focuses on Snowden’s character, calling him a “serial exaggerator and fabricator”.
While Snowden has said the disclosures were in the public interest, the report said the “vast majority” of the exfiltrated documents relate not to individual privacy interests but to programmes of interest to US adversaries such as Russia and China.
“He handed over secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defienses against terrorists and nation-states,” the HPSCI said in a three-page unclassified summary of the 36-page report, which has not been made public.
Snowden said the report systematically distorts facts in an act of “bad faith”.
For instance, the report indicates that Snowden began downloading NSA secrets eight months earlier than Snowden has claimed. But those downloads were part of Heartbeat, an approved NSA programme, Snowden said in a Twitter message.
“Heartbeat… was explicited authorised by two levels of my management,” he wrote. “After ‘two years of investigation’, the American people deserve better.”
He said the report’s release appeared to have been a response to the release of Stone’s film.
Barton Gellman, who led the Washington Post’s coverage of the NSA after Snowden’s disclosures, stated on Friday that “the HPSCI report on Snowden is aggressively dishonest”.
The HPSCI said it disagreed with a petition by human rights organisations in favour of a presidential pardon for Snowden, saying it had sent an open letter to Obama urging him not to consider such a pardon.
The Obama administration reiterated that its policy is that Snowden “should return to the United States and face the very serious charges that he is facing”.
Meanwhile, the European Commission this week published controversial draft telecommunications rules that could limit the use of encryption by digital communications services such as Skype and WhatsApp.
The rules would make such services subject to some of the same wiretapping rules currently followed by telecommunications companies.
Services including WhatsApp have introduced end-to-end encryption as a direct result of Snowden’s disclosures.
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